Red Deer County council has approved the creation of a special corporation to oversee the expansion of broadband Internet service.
The county is joining forces with the Village of Delburne and Paintearth County to create a municipally controlled corporation called Rural Connect Ltd. to deliver broadband Internet services to thousands of rural residents under-served by existing private sector service providers.
Also involved is EQUS REA Ltd., an Alberta-based member-owned electricity provider, which will provide $2 million in start-up capital. Another partner is VALO Networks, which specializes in operating next-generation fibre-optic and wireless networks will operate Connect’s system, saving the corporation from having to provide those services.
Red Deer County launched a major initiative in 2020 to bring affordable broadband service to county residents and Delburne soon signed on.
Since then, the county has invested more than $17 million in the initiative and approved another $4 million this week. A $10-million federal grant is also coming to further expand the network.
Mayor Jim Wood said the broadband initiative appeared a “daunting task” when launched. “But folks told us they wanted rural Internet and we took the bull by the horns.”
Wood said while the county had been going it alone, forming partnerships with other businesses and municipalities will provide the “economies of scale” to further build out broadband.
“Being part of a larger group is what is going to create the success.”
He believes that creating the broadband initiative is a model that can be emulated elsewhere in the province.
County manager Curtis Herzberg was asked what would happen if the much-anticipated $10 million federal grant does not come through.
Herzberg said while he could not provide details publicly about the grant yet he did not anticipate any problems. If the money did not arrive, the county would not go forward with the corporation.
There are still some legal reviews to complete and other minor changes to be made before the corporation is officially established.